Posts by Ms. Betwixter

36 in the rearview

I started this annual endeavor of writing a public reflection blog in 2010, after my 27th birthday, having no idea at the time that I’d continue to make the commitment and be writing one every year since.

At the time, I would describe my life as off-kilter. If you look at the major ‘life buckets’, I had at least one that felt wholly chaotic at any given time. All these years later, even if that’s the case, I’d say that the major difference is in my ability to weather those storms, not allowing them to rock me so much. I’ve truly learned that we can’t control our circumstances, but we can control how we react to them. And that has changed my perception of my life, thus creating more peace, stability, and enjoyment.

As I share every year, I do this for a few primary reasons: 

1. To have for myself to reflect back upon in the future.

2. To express reverence, gratitude, and celebration for the happenings and learnings within the year.
3. To take that reflection as a springboard into my upcoming year.

4. Rather than keep it for myself as a silent time capsule, each time I share it, others say it sparks in them some version of the same practice. As a result, they say that they become more intentional about how they spend their time. If my experiences can offer any amount of truth, inspiration, or guidance to others, I’m in!

Before spending days digging through 4 journals, thousands of photos, my calendar, and my social media accounts to create this… I spent time re-reading all of those past entries, and wasn’t surprised to see how much remains consistent, no matter the age, calendar year, or circumstances. My takeaway: there were always ups-and-downs that came from outside circumstances, but I remained resilient and learned from them. I’ve had an ongoing love affair with all things growth-oriented: reading, travel, relationships, entrepreneurship. I’ve also had an ongoing non-love affair with any regular fitness routine. A theme remains of having an ongoing evolution towards a healthier relationship with my self-worth, in part, how I tie my looks to it. There’s always been a theme of mindfulness and deep intention, even when I didn’t call it that. I was ever-reminded that the things that seem so monumental look so small or are completely forgettable in the rearview mirror. And, that not all things grow in a continuous upward trajectory.

I was struck by this passage that I wrote in 2014, in particular: “For years, I’ve defined success as freedom: the freedom to make choices because I have the financial ability to do so. The freedom to be myself, and to be confident about who I am in every environment.  The freedom to learn, travel, grow, start and expand businesses, make choices of my time that suit me and not others, and the freedom to love and make mistakes because they are opportunities to grow.”

These words remain the bedrock of what motivates me.

I was also struck by the gift of hindsight in helping to connect the dots to see how some of the coolest things that have happened to me came as a result of seeds being planted that I didn’t know would accumulate into said thing (celebrity interviews, tv show opportunities, business ideas and collaborations, love….). What’s my takeaway? Doing the things that feel aligned, exciting, and energizing are always the cues to say ‘yes’, without deep expectation or attachment to how they might play out. Also, it’s important to recognize that many seeds take a long time to grow into their fullness, and playing the long game takes patience.

So, let’s teleport back to today, in late 2020, and start with lessons learned from this year (and then I’ll dive into the context and what ‘actually happened’):

-I’ve had everything I needed all along. The lessons, struggles, and skills I possess haven’t changed that much over 10+ years. My mindset had to catch up.

-People’s unkind spewing is rarely about you. I always pause to ask where my blame or lesson is in it (what’s the impact of my actions?). And I also consider that my showing up in whatever way I did is a trigger for them, and is not about me. In one instance where someone was really hurtful, I shared the pain it caused me directly with them (a stranger). Months later, he followed up to apologize and explain his learning and healing since. That doesn’t often occur, but it’s a good reminder to have empathy for everyone’s journey, even when their growth hits you like a ton of bricks.

-My intentions for 2020 were ‘surrender’ and ‘spaciousness’ and my goal was ‘to have fewer goals’. Look how that turned out 🙂

-Someone else’s expertise need not trump my own intuition.

-Invite people in… not just when you’re carrying the weight of the relationship. True vulnerability means showing up when it’s uncomfortable. Let people help you. Tell them what you need. It’s ok to feel all of your feelings.

-Oftentimes, the thing you’re resisting the most is precisely the thing that you need.

-Don’t drag out your decisions. Prove to yourself and the Universe that you can take quick action.

-Be kinder to yourself. You would never let someone talk to you the way you talk to yourself.

-Winners do quit…strategically.

-The life I’m living now used to seem wholly out of reach… and I’m doing my best not to take that for granted!

-I saw the true power of manifesting… that when I truly desired, visualized, and felt the thing as though it was already a reality, it arrived (not always on my timeline, but it showed up). Same came true with doubt and lack. So I was in perpetual thought awareness to course-correct.

-Don’t let the pursuit of perfection get in the way of progress.

-You have to do shit you’ve never done before and that scares you to grow into the person you hope to become.

-Don’t get so attached to your self-imposed identity that you miss the opportunity to grow (my seeing this in myself when it comes to a lot of titles like ‘coach’, ‘fiancee, ‘wife’, ‘mother’…).

-You have to say ‘no’, even when it’s a ‘big deal’ or really shiny, if it doesn’t feel aligned. Walk away and honor yourself.

-Sometimes humility is a mask to hide behind (and play small).

-I love the idea of incremental improvement. However, I don’t want to become settled into that mindset, no longer believing or working toward things that would be much bigger leaps and changes

-Help and support can manifest in a lot of ways, and will change based on circumstances and context.

-I must find a healthy balance between ingesting current events and letting the media’s fear-mongering energy get me down.

-When I am down, my focus is to find incremental improvement upwards, not to go from 10% to 90%, so to speak.

-Always remember that we are all equal: none better, nor lesser.

-There’s always a way: just get creative, and stay patient.

-Relationships are everything.

-I don’t have to ‘do’ or perform to be valuable. I can just be.

-When I feel taken advantage of, that’s often because I didn’t hold to my boundaries. I let others treat me like that.

-This year really reminded me that nothing is impossible, permanent, or unchangeable.

-Some of my richest moments were: good sleep, waking up without an alarm, days with nothing on the calendar, laughs, a good book, being in nature. It truly is about the little things.

-I noticed over and over again my different relationships with time. In some instances, I felt like an abundant time creator. In others, I felt squeezed by it. In others, it was a source of annoyance when my ‘time wasn’t respected’. In others, that felt like a path opening for something else.

-I was called ‘superhuman’ several times this year. This surprised and bothered me because I never want others to see me through that lens. I have the same flaws and challenges that many do. I also learned that this caused some of those people to dump a lot on me and treat me unfairly because they felt I would be unfazed by it. I corrected them and was glad I spoke up.

-Borrow confidence from those who see it in you until you can believe it for yourself.

-Work is like gas. It fills up whatever space you give it. See what happens when you limit its space.

-Whatever you want… give more of it.

-How to navigate life in a new family (in-laws).

-Stay available for divine moments to be used (like when we helped a suicidal man in the middle of a high-traffic road move out of it and get the help he needed).

-Disconnecting from the need for validation and approval of others may be an ongoing, lifetime project.

-There is a lot of life and beauty in slowness.

-The exact same situation that once felt irksome can immediately change when my perception of it does.

-There’s a delicate balance between admiration and comparison. Be careful to allow admiration to fuel you, not turning it into comparison that stops you.

-Stop grasping. It’s a form of control. The best things happen when you let go and allow to come what’s meant for you. All stress and anxiety are a result of desiring a different past or future. You’ll be much more at peace if you plan, release, and receive.

-Even when someone pays you, if the relationship no longer feels aligned, it’s okay to say so, course-correct, and/or refund them and walk away.

-There are few greater feelings than getting to do work that a. I love, b. at which I feel naturally gifted, and c. helps others.

-Old habits stick around, even when you think you’ve grown past them, unless you continue to release and replace them. Some of those were inconsistency with physical activity, tying too much of my value and identity to my work, and a desire to please and be ever-available to people about whom I care.

-There is no better use of my energy than to grow and nurture myself before anything else. Then I have more to give, as well as more quality to offer.

-Social media is a mixed bag for me. Trolls and internal pressure for growth and engagement were downers. But recognizing how much good can come from the tool (and has) was also really telling. I got a lot of new clients through it, as well as countless messages of gratitude from strangers and old contacts sharing how what I put out has meant something to them. So I keep showing up and connect with that intention and an ever-evolving set of boundaries for those spaces.

-Continuing to find the balance between an abundance mindset with money, balanced with financial responsibility (which is my fallback comfort zone).

-Quarantine was a time where the ‘wheels fell off’ on my beauty routines and put me into more work on my long-held insecurities in that area. Awareness was step 1. Acceptance 2. Then ownership and release were next.

-Tapped into a deep-seated desire to be understood. Traced it back to a specific moment in early childhood. Then continued to trace it to all the places where it came up to teach me to release it. I did a self-healing to release and work through it and have felt improvement.

-Using my voice to speak up for my needs is challenging. One place I’ve had to confront it is in the architect’s office, when they or our builders will have ideas and I’ll need to advocate for my/our desires, even when they’re the experts.

-Being in quarantine for a good portion of a year certainly magnified my already-strong desire for inner reflection and learning, as you saw in the aforementioned lessons. Now, here’s what went down:

-For the birthday kick-off last year, I opted for bowling, hibachi, at-home massages, and karaoke. 

-Did  a guest lecture at Emory two times, which was a full-circle moment since it was for the MBA class of my first business mentor. It was also ironic since I’ve never taken a business class.

-Was a guest on two of the biggest podcasts I’ve done each of which had multi-million person audiences.

-Had an intuition to take a concept I’d had for an all-virtual business accelerator program for entrepreneurs who want to run businesses that don’t run them. Launched the concept in November 2019 and ran enrollment through December. The program kicked off in January to a group of 21 paid enrollees with much good energy. ‘The Mind Your Business Accelerator’ was born!

-This was a big undertaking– I’d never had myself on the hook for 12 months with clients and had to be in an ongoing mode of client care and content creation to deliver on what I’d promised. I’m really glad I did it. Frankly, I was pleasantly surprised by the results, particularly given how they’re all small-business owners whose businesses were battered by COVID on month 3 of our program.

-I lost about 40% of them over that month, which was one of those moments where I chose compassion over legality. They’d signed contracts to stay in for a year, but I couldn’t stomach holding them to that, even when it hurt my bottom line.

-It feels like such a distant and out-of-place memory to have foreign travel in here, but, back in late November, we flew to Carategena, Colombia with family. We soaked up the vibrancy, enjoyed local cuisine, and saw lots of beautiful street art. Then, we hopped over to Panama to visit my parents in their new home with extended family. We saw the Canal, mixed with monkeys on a river boat, shopped local markets, enjoyed the city and countryside, walked the black and white sand beaches, and even toured a possible wedding venue.

-We came home briefly to polish up my learning of a 3-song traditional Indian dance to perform for Deepa’s wedding… in Chennai. Therefore, I flew to India for adventures in Chennai, Kerala, and Delhi, full of beautiful colors, delicious food, sights like the Taj Mahal, a healing at an ayurvedic medical center.

-Met President Obama, a.k.a. Brendan’s former boss.

-Struggled for months with my assistant at the time and I tried to toe-the-line between working through some challenges and giving her chances to grow and course-correct, versus cutting the cord. I trusted that I could replace her without a lot of tumult, and that that might be honoring to me, not just worrying about her. After putting up with more than any boss should deal with from a hire, and subsequently giving her another chance, a raise, and a bonus, she quit right after the new year.

-I was fortunate to find a great and very-capable replacement shortly thereafter. She called me crying about 6 months into our work and said she was having health issues that would preclude her from moving forward at our current pace. It’s weird to say (those who work closely with their teams will get it) but I was heartbroken for her, and for me. It triggered a reaction in me that something was wrong with me and that I wasn’t someone for whom people wanted to work. But then I shook it off, recognizing that she didn’t quit (and is still with me in a small capacity) and hired a colleague of hers from a former job. What started off with promise turned downhill relatively quickly. Again, I was in a place of replacing this role and had to look at the pattern and learn how to break it. So I hired a true professional who does this work as her passion and has a history of success in this type of role…and who costs 2-3x more. But I’m investing in myself and banking on the value she will bring.

-Speaking of, COVID-be-damned: I finished the year with my coaching and consulting business at 300% in revenue over last year… even after sales plummeted by 40% in March and April (across all my businesses, but those rebounded to more normal levels later).

-I was reminded that ‘where attention goes, energy flows’ through this. That the second I made a decision to focus my energy on this businesse’s growth, it grew, in spite of the economic climate. While I know that’s not the case for all types of business, what is true is that when we dedicate ourselves to focus on solutions and executing those hypotheses, we see results (sometimes ones that need more iteration, but other times ones that work).

-It’s odd to say out loud, but I made more money in 2020 than I ever have before. I give a lot of credit to this decision to say that in the absence of ways I’d spend my time in a non-COVID world (traveling and socializing so much more), I’d re-allocate that time to self-care. (This showed up not just in the ways that we typically think of, like massages, but in deep spiritual work, healing, and meditation. I earned a certifiicaton in Reiki, and I practiced that both on myself and on friends and clients.) This, coupled with a focus on uninterrupted time, (typically interrupted by things that come along with travel) I could focus and ‘play the game of money’. The second I turned my attention from the fear-mongering of the recession we were facing and the fear of massive implosion of businesses, and turned to putting money back into the economy (i.e., spending) and working on my business, things flourished again.

-I learned Reiki on a whim. I felt drawn to learn about it after having a strange experience with an energy worker and wanting to understand and no longer give over so much power to someone because I simply didn’t understand the modality. In turn, I realized we all have access to this energy and healing potential. The labeling of it actually makes it seem more unique, when, in fact, it’s something we see in many traditions (think: “laying-on of hands” in Christianity, for example).

-I also invited in a connection to energy and guides I cannot see through symbols (ladybugs…showing up everywhere) and by name and signs.

-I’ve diverted chronologically… After India came Cape Cod Christmas with Brendan’s family followed by a cozy cabin with friends in North Georgia for New Year’s.

-2020 kicked off to a quick start with my group coaching program launching and Network Under 40 continuing with its live events in 3 cities (without much involvement from me).

-As I sat with all I had on my plate, plus planning a wedding, and looking for a new house (possibly building one), my gut told me to clear something, and it was my book.

-After 2 years of working on my proposal with my literary agent, I called her and said it felt like the wrong time. She was supportive and said I could pick it up when it felt right, which was a relief, for sure.

-Brendan and I flew to New Mexico to go to an incredible ranch (Vermejo) as a possible wedding venue. While it wasn’t ‘the one’, it was cool to go ice fishing, horseback-riding in the snow, and see all the wildlife.

-February came and Mom traveled from Panama to see me on a tour to see her kids around the US. We celebrated her birthday and I surprised her with a day of wedding-dress shopping. It was one-part surreal to do that for the first time and another-part special to share that with her.

-Brendan and I then went up to NYC in early March for a friend’s engagement party, to be in our old part-time home (full-time once for him), see a show at the Apollo, and go to Kleinfeld (thanks to an intro to the owner to see if i’d #SayYesToTheDress). As it turned out, the experience was the opposite of my expectations: hated 99% of the dresses, but the service was great (I thought it would be chock-full of great options and the salespeople would be pushy).

-As we were there, COVID became a huge part of our vernacular, and we came home just in the nick of time before NYC became the US epicenter.

-I remember thinking that it would be 8-10 weeks, max, and then we’d be ‘back to normal’. Obviously that was a combo of naivety meeting blind optimism…

-One thing I had more line-of-sight into during all the months of quarantine was how much a. I enjoy being home, b. enjoy time alone, and c. how a lot of my relationships changed when we didn’t have built-in social engagement. and that actually felt freeing. (It’s actually funny to have gone through the exercise of writing this, which includes my going back through my calendar, and to see how packed it was pre mid-March 2020, and then how different it looked for the rest of the year).

-I’d begun working with my mentee who was recently released from prison. Over the course of our relationship evolving, I asked him if he felt this work would be valuable for his peers. He believed it would be, so we worked alongside Common Good, a non-profit which does college-level education for those who are currently incarcerated, to build out a pilot program. It took many months, but we now have 5 matches and are in-action on creating more while getting in-real-time feedback to make it a more scalable program.

-As is the case for many, time became a new construct where work and life blended, and there wasn’t much to differentiate one day from another. I came to really enjoy it, first feeling gratitude for having safety and security, and second, feeling it was a nice pendulum swing from a life always on the go.

-I recall my feelings being all over the map: from feeling an urgency to be there for everyone else, to the point of serious depletion. At times, I felt scared and anxious, while at others, I felt at peace and quite good. 

-As the months passed, Brendan, the true extrovert (I’m an ambivert: equal parts intro-and extro-verted) was getting antsy being home. He convinced me to check out travel trailers. I had a mini-meltdown in the parking lot before we went in, accusing him of ‘trying to change me’. Once I calmed down, we toured the Airstreams and realized that it was like a small NYC apartment on wheels, and I was down with giving it a try. So we became the proud owners of a 22′ Airstream Bambi about a month later and picked her (named “Quality Time Bob”) up in Florida, after a visit with friends in Ft. Lauderdale (who also were COVID-free and our first interaction in months)….and a life where I’d camped a total of 2x became a much-more-regular occurrence.

-We got in some good travel with this (and also sold our old car to our mutual friend/Brendan’s ex-girlfriend… and got a Jeep Grand Cherokee to haul the trailer…). We took lots of trips in Florida and Georgia and one up to his family in Cape Cod (post negative tests) for two weeks this summer. It was a good chance to see his family, as well as my aunt and uncle on the 20-hour return drive as we passed through Maryland’s eastern shore on the way south.

-We capped off the year in it by going to the Tampa area when I used it for a  ‘CEO week’ to take no meetings and not schedule any work projects. It was really nice after a year of no breaks. 

-After some pausing on house hunting, we got back in the market and had a serendipitous situation where some friends told us they saw a property we should check out 2 streets over from them (about 1.5 miles from our current home, which was ideal). It wasn’t on the market, was an old 60’s rancher on about 3/4 of an acre (a lot for intown Atlanta), with a creek and lots of trees. We drove over, reached out to the email on the handmade sign, and were there the next day with the neighbor-turned-estate-executor. We were immediately sold and then had our minds-blown to learn that the cost was about $200k under neighboring comps. We had our builders there the next day. They agreed it was a huge win, and we were under contract soon after. It feels exciting and scary to build a custom house, but with each step (working through the variance process, architecture, engineering, financing, design, etc) our team has been incredible. Our architect is a new friend who also happens to be renowned in his field (he did Oprah’s house… swoon) and he gave us his time gratis and brought on one of his team members (we pay him) and their work is out of this world. They work so well with our builders (two incredible women) and everyone is thrilled to do it together– so different from the horror stories you hear. Even the moments that could have made things go wrong have worked in our favor… like an original 60-day contract period turned into a 6-month one so we could get our planning done! Unheard of.

-This whole process got me thinking a lot about focus and essentialism. And I realized that even though my original home-turned-cash-flowing-rental property was profitable and easy to manage, it was time to sell it. I’d actually started the process of doing so in March, but then got a gut feeling not to do so. Plus, my renters asked that I didn’t. I learned 2 weeks later that the company that gave me an offer (an iBuyer) pulled hundreds across the country. But it was now time and the home went up on the market after an incredible and quick team effort with more showings than expected in week 1 (that’s where we meet current moment of this writing).

-The other thing to shed is Network Under 40. I’m emotionally ready to move on and was lucky to have interested buyers before COVID… then, live events evaporated. So we held on, managing to survive profitably and now I have interested buyers again!

-One other big movement this year was my decision not to  let COVID impact my plans to have a tv show that had been verrrrrry early in-the-works with a production company. So, I did what I know how to do: network my way into executives in Hollywood who gave me a crash course in getting tv shows made. I honed my pitch, got it in front of 5 production companies, and made some progress. Let’s hope next year’s update will have a tv show to show you!

-I used my voice in a lot of uncomfortable ways this year. Sometimes it was to admit my ignorance about racial justice, and to use my platforms to help educate myself and others who wanted to learn. In others it was telling friends directly how their lack of care and attention to our friendship was hurting me and couldn’t continue like that.

-I was also stretched (in a growth way) a lot with my coaching clients this year. I really owned this part of my work, where in the past I was really reticent to do so. And it resulted in massive transformations in the lives and businesses of about 20 solo clients. It kept me on-my-toes to be in the work, too, to be at my best for them.

-Part of that was reading. I devoured 40+ books this year.

-During this work with clients, I saw a pattern among my summer clients: each of them came seeking more from their work and all left our time together with a coaching or consulting practice set up. I had an idea to do a 9-week version of ‘Mind Your Business’, but this time bring in the systems, operations, and automations expertise of my friend Kate. She agreed and 4 weeks later, we launched to a 17-person cohort with rave reviews and results! She and I agreed to do another ongoing collaboration in 2021, which was great on a lot of levels, one in particular being that as much as I am capable of running things on my own, it’s nice to have someone I respect with a different skill set partaking, too.

-One thing a pandemic will do is put things in perspective. And that helped me to want to step into my dreams more and not doubt myself as much.

-With all that’s going on, what was a stressor that we’d not set a date and location for our wedding turned into a blessing. So, as we build this house, we’re putting it on the back-burner.

-Speaking of, we celebrated 4 years together (and 1.5 years of engagement)!

-Shortly after our anniversary, we got some really scary news that a member of my immediate family was diagnosed with cancer. For their privacy, I’ll just say that it put me in a tailspin of emotions ranging from mortality, to denial, acceptance, family dynamics, impact on those who will remain, our relationship, and everything in-between. I can say with certainty that I’ve never felt so depressed before. The good news: they are doing well now and undergoing ongoing treatments!

-Did some cool collaborations with companies like BlackRock and FedEx, and BumbleBizz, and got to do a live interview for a client in a real tv studio.

-Brendan and I also took a whack at a first professional project together, back-filling lost business by combining our expertise in live and virtual event production to produce a 130-year-old nonprofit’s virtual experience for a national audience and to much success! It wasn’t my preferred kind of work, in the end, but it was a good experiment for us!

-I also dropped a surprise limited series podcast with my friend Elizabeth (called Up and At Her) for the hell of it and was a guest on many others’ podcasts.

-In the vein of essentialism, I decided that writing my Forbes column wasn’t  a priority and only put out 2 articles between March and November.

-Biden/Harris won the election and gave us (i.e., me and those who voted for them) hope again!

-One of my goals about 15 years ago was to grow into a place where I could eventually be a support as a guide/mentor and offer financial assistance and investment to others who need it, specifically younger folks in business. And as I look back, I see how much that is true now. I also had a moment where the guy who helped shepherd me into a lot of entrepreneurial communities when I was barely getting started came to me for financial and emotional support. I gave both with no question, and didn’t expect to get it back and was okay with that. And then, within 24 hours, a 6-month overdue client invoice came in for almost the identical amount I gave to him. Served as a reminder that what you give, comes back to you.

-Our birthdays (mine and Brendan’s being 1 day apart) were celebrated in a very small gathering in a friend’s backyard…how times have changed!

-Brendan made me an hour-long tribute video from loved ones which deeply moved me!

-Some of the things I wished for myself for this coming year:

-inner contentedness/peace

-more fun/play

-to enjoy the home building process and to move in!

-to have a hit tv show!

-my business to thrive more than ever before

-to sell Network Under 40 and my rental property

-my relationship and love with Brendan to continue to deepen

-more snuggles with Chairman Meow

-to feel more confident and embodied in my gifts and the impact they make

-to be surrounded by people who elevate me

-to become more connected to my spiritual gifts

Thanks for taking this literary journey with me, as well as taking whatever role you’ve played in my story

Cheers to what’s to come!

Read More

35: A Year In Review

Methinks this is round-up number 11, meaning 11 years of reflection and life lessons in the books! It also works out great as the decade comes to a close and we head into 2020, to have 10+ years of memories and learnings on which to look back.

For anyone who’s new to my year-in-review practice, I started it as a 24-year-old who began to notice that life moves quickly. Although the speed of time doesn’t actually change, as we age, it certainly feels as if it does. So, I decided to embark on a practice of using my birthday as a mile-marker to write about the past year, the things I’ve experienced, and that which I’ve learned or continue to learn.

It’s a work that serves several purposes for me: one part memory book, just so I don’t forget the things big and small that transpired. The other part is a public journal that a. holds me accountable to doing it each year, b. has become a cherished time capsule for me, c. feels hella vulnerable to put my shit out there for anyone to read, d. helps me to appreciate and take stock, and e. according to many of you, has become an inspiring and motivating tool for you, too. So, that’s why I do it.

After spending countless hours scouring my memory, calendar, pictures, journal and social media from the last year, here is 35 in review:

In full transparency, birthdays have a history of making me sad. No matter how much I’ve tried historically to focus on the good stuff, and those who care and remember, I tend to get down and get fixated in my mind on those who forgot. So, it was a big coup for me this year to overcome that pattern for the first time. That started by staying off social media on my actual birthday so I had no way of knowing the summation of who reached out. Also, for the first time in a long time, I planned an intimate gathering of friends to go bowling on my actual birthday night (which continues a nice run of child-like birthday parties to honor that kid in all of us). That kicked off the new year with fun and love, focusing on that of abundance, not lack.

Technically, that’s how the year wrapped up, so let’s rewind back to November 13, 2018, the kick-off of my 35th year…

Last year was a joint Gatsby-themed birthday with Brendan because our birthdays are one day apart.

I had a hankering this year to feel more grounded at home. That will seem laughable to many when you read this and see how much travel I still did, but I dialed it back from about 60% to 30% and that felt perfect this year. I needed to listen to myself and stay in tune with my needs. For years, being on the go all the time was perfect. This year I wanted more roots and stability.

Ironically, it was time to travel soon after our birthdays (mine and Brendan’s), so off we went to Santa Fe for Thanksgiving with my family. It was my first time in New Mexico (we choose a new destination every year) and won’t be my last! Should you go, check out 10,000 Waves Spa and Meow Wolf…trust me!

Brendan and I departed for a road trip to introduce me to some national parks and beautiful places that I’d never seen before, like the Grand Canyon, Antelope Canyon, Petrified Forest, and Horseshoe Bend, before we departed from Vegas. This trip opened my eyes to how much I love national parks, and now I’m eager to explore more of them.

December arrived and after waiting my whole life to travel to Paris, the time had come. I’d been to France, but had avoided Paris because I was “waiting for a romantic adventure” and the time finally felt right. So, Brendan and I flew to Paris. Little did I know, but the flight there would be one of the biggest milestones of my life. 

For the entirety of my adult life, I’d struggled to answer the questions of whether or not I wanted to ever get married and/or have children. Naturally, that was a major sticking point in my relationship with Brendan. He’d remained extraordinarily graceful and patient with me for, at that time, 2-plus years, as those were non-negotiable for him.

We boarded a flight, sat, and I looked to my right and pointed out a family with a cute baby (if you know me you’ll know that is a rarity for me to call out a cute child). He turned to me with puppy-dog eyes and asked, “Can we please have one?”. This wasn’t an unusual question from him, yet my response and reaction were. Immediately, I began to feel tears streaming down my cheeks and without thinking, I said, “OK.” He cried and kissed my cheek, while whispering that he’d be there to support me every step of the way. I replied, “Can I have a mulligan, in case I change my mind?”. That moment became a domino effect that set into motion so much more this year: the decision to choose one another, get engaged, and begin to plan a forever future together. 

We arrived in Paris and little did we know that we had gotten there just in time literally to be in the middle of the yellow vest protests. We found ourselves walking through torn up streets of broken shop windows, car fires, and angry mobs of people. It wasn’t quite the romantic Paris I’d envisioned, but simply reality. We still hit all the tourist spots: saw the Mona Lisa, Eiffel Tower, a creepy art exhibit of spider webs, Notre Dame (pre-fire), and so on.

From there we headed to Rome for me to eat my heart out (it’s the only place in the world I go and my sole focus is food) and to tap into Brendan’s work with the Vatican. I enjoyed some solo time eating gelato and spaghetti while reading Michelle Obama’s book and making friends with the Italian waiter, who was also a twin and reading the same book! 

Next, we take our carry-ons to Miami to pop into Art Basel (you’d be amazed at my packing skills for all these various places and fashion needs), then straight to Big Sur, California to check out Esalen for a tantra workshop. It turned out it was more of a relationship workshop (misnomer in the title) but it was a great weekend at a spectacular location!

Being settled in our new house for the first holiday season, Brendan’s family agreed to visit us for Christmas. We had a great time showing them Atlanta for the first time, and giving them the full-blown holiday experience (Botanical garden holiday lights, axe throwing, private museum tour, food tour, and the like), including a colorful mixture of friends for a lively Christmas Eve dinner.

For New Years, we jetted to Guatemala with our friends Adam and Tyler to have what can only be described as a magical experience. It was the perfect rejuvenating and centering experience to head into a new calendar year and last year of the decade.

That magic continued to unfold as days later I sat at my desk and recorded the first episode with Deepak Chopra of our new digital series together: Diving Deep With Deepak & Darrah. Here was a man I’d admired and learned from his teachings for years. Suddenly, I’m co-hosting a show with him, getting to sit with him and ask anything I wanted for an hour at a time, week after week. That experience taught me more than I can share in a summary. Some of the lessons included what I call ‘borrowed confidence’…by that I mean that Deepak saw something in me I didn’t see in myself at the time. So, the only way for me to move forward was to borrow that confidence he felt until I could embody it for myself.

I learned countless lessons about growth and life and was reminded that the things that are meant for us happen without resistance and toil. For example, had you asked me if that was a goal of mine, the answer was a certain ’no’ because it was so far out of sight and what I thought was possible. Yet, it unfolded so quickly and effortlessly, which is how I knew deeply that it was right. I took that and uncharacteristically made my only goal for 2019 ‘to have less goals’ because I wanted to allow life to transpire and happen for me as it needed to, not allowing my attachment to my own goals to get in the way of that. Deepak and I have since released 33 episodes. I look forward to seeing how our friendship and collaboration can continue to do what he asked of it: to allow me to help make his work more relatable and understandable to others.

Next up: NYC to revisit our old part-time home, connect with Deepak, bring together local friends, start ring shopping, and avoid the Super Bowl madness in Atlanta!

My work with Deepak also catalyzed my love for interviewing people and extracting wisdom and value for the readers or watchers. So, I opened myself up to those opportunities and interviewed people like: Nastia Liukin, Shaq, Ryan Holiday, Marie Forleo, Sheri Salata, Kevin Harrington, Baron Davis, Bill Belichick, Jean Chatzky, Guy Kawasaki, Bobbi Brown, Cal Newport, Jillian Michaels, and Seth Godin. 

Many snippets of these interviews will also be featured in my ongoing project: my next book. I continued to work on my book proposal with my agent and writing partner (going on year 2 now…learned a lot about this process since starting) and was surprised and sad to say goodbye to that writing partner this summer when he shared the news that his priorities had changed and this was no longer a part of them. In that moment, I made a choice to trust that that was what was best for both of us, even though it wasn’t what I wanted, and empathize with how difficult that must have been for him to come to that conclusion.

Within days, I learned that I’d be losing my event directors in Baltimore and Nashville later this year as they both were ready to pursue other things. Then, shortly after, my bookkeeper quit. It was definitely a time for regeneration, letting go of the old and inviting in new in each of these areas. It kicked up some narratives in my mind that I’m difficult to work with and must be the problem, but when I dug into it, realized that was self-imposed. 

I also realized that when we allow things to stay comfortable, it can blind us to areas that need attention and growth, and that was the case for each of these. I also was reminded of how easily communication can go hay-wire. With one of these teammates, she pinpointed a sentence I had said to her in recent weeks that “rubbed her the wrong way”. Instead of getting defensive, I replied, “I certainly hope that you won’t allow one sentence to override the thousands of sentences we’ve shared in our years of knowing one another.” And then I let it be because here’s the thing: we can’t control how others perceive or receive our communications. We can control our actions and intentions, and can and should try to clean up any mess that might occur. Ultimately, though, everyone will digest our communications (and lack thereof) through his/her own perspective and experiences. Not taking that personally is one of the hardest lessons I’ll continue to learn.

And, earlier that year, I had two resignations come, one from a team member who’d been with me for 6 years so he could start his own company. Neither contentious, but both jarring, and one was followed up by a new hire who quit before she started. However, before I panicked, I paused and realized that there is something that needs to shed to show me what’s coming.  It’s taken me years of experience (and meditation) to approach things this way and realize that problems are only such if we choose to see them that way.

This leads me to about a week later when my assistant came to me asking for both a raise and a change in her structure. I had my feelings about the timing and request given some recent circumstances, and I made the mistake of responding to her email request also via email, which led to unnecessary misinterpretation. Two days later, I had a resignation notice in my inbox, chock-full of verbal attacks on my character. I was beside myself. Even though I knew the aforementioned about not taking it personally, knowing someone felt the things she said she did about me left me in a puddle. Immediate efforts to call and connect (she’s in another country; hence, why we typically email) were not answered. Days later, we spoke, and when coming from a place of love and understanding, talked through it all, worked it out, she came back on board, and even to my surprise, I offered her the raise and structure changes she requested. My older brother suggested this wouldn’t last, but I have to trust my gut. She told me that her harsh words were not about me at all. That confirmed what I know: people are projecting their own experiences on us (and we to them) and shielding themselves from hurt…often mistakenly causing hurt along the way. Oddly, we are better for it now, partly because we chose to rise above it and not let it be the end or a defining moment for us.

That leads me to another lesson: the more I’ve put myself out there publicly (and will continue to), the more I receive both loving and hateful critique. It’s so natural to drown out the good for the bad, and let that record play on repeat in my head. So, I’ve done a lot of internal work to remind myself that this criticism doesn’t count when it’s coming from faceless online bullies and people who aren’t on the field, in the game themselves. If they’re simply jerks who are on the sidelines, sitting pretty, there to hail insults, I try to keep it moving. I’m not impenetrable, but I’ve seen a massive improvement.

That has also led me to hide less. This is something I was guilty of for years: fearful of other people’s opinions and judgments so much so that I would keep playing small and hiding from opportunities to avoid that possible wrath. The funny thing was, most of the time people weren’t actually paying attention, and then I also realized that when they were, it was a great sign that people were paying attention, so that meant that my message(s) were spreading. This accumulation of learnings led me to a place where more than ever before, I flung myself into new and scary things saying to myself along the way, “Why not?” and “Why not me?”.

Another new and scary thing I took on this year (but can’t speak to in much detail yet) was awakening to the fact that it was time to sell one of my companies. I had a deep feeling of discomfort and told Brendan I needed to get away for a solo retreat in nature. So, after the wedding of dear friends, we drove to a hike out at a nearby lake. Within moments, I knew. Within 5 weeks’ time of that moment, I went from making that decision to sell, to holding a formal bidding process for 4 companies who were interested in purchasing, with a waiting list of 4 more. I’d learned everything about how to do it and built the process while I went. Once that is final, I’ll share more!

Back to chronological time… in February we were off to LA for a little sunshine and some work: Oscars event, charity comedy event, and some time with friends!

During this time I was relaunching my website and working with a woman who specializes in launches, copy, funnels…all sorts of digital marketing stuff. I learned a valuable lesson here, too: no matter how expert someone is in something: always trust your gut. I paid her a good deal of money to change things that didn’t entirely feel and sound like me when she was finished. The results: poor and worse than what they were before I brought her on. I needed to trust my instincts and blend that with her wisdom, but instead, I let the idea of her knowledge overpower mine.

Up next: Brendan and I started taking ballroom dancing lessons, mostly because I wanted to know if had my mom’s talent (she used to compete) and after years of watching Dancing With The Stars, I felt as if I could do it. I was sort of right…

Then it was off to explore another national park: this time to Joshua Tree with a group of girlfriends and then straight to Civana resort in Arizona, thanks to a friend who comped us with a 3-night stay and spa treatments…it was just what we needed!

Around this time (April), I got an email from a former editor of one of the online publications for which I used to write. He asked if he could pay me to mentor him, and we’ve since created a beautiful relationship of mentorship and coaching. Because of our work together, I began to shatter a lot of my misgivings about the idea of being a coach. I’d felt for so long that there were too many of them and that they were often baseless and fluffy. I didn’t want to be lumped in with them, yet, when he and I worked together, I felt so alive, and was blown away by the impact our time together was having on him (all the way in New Zealand).

Shortly after we started, a friend and I found ourselves speaking on a panel together. Afterward, she asked me if I would coach her: she was growing her business and found that her life was going to hell in a handbasket in favor of her keeping her business afloat. I said no, still resisting coaching, and basically, she said, “What do I have to pay you to do this?”. I sat on it and decided to move forward and gave both of us an out, were it not to be aligned.

Turns out, it was majorly aligned, and again, she was thrilled with the results and so was I. Then, along came a guy I went on one date with 6 years ago, who asked me to coach him as he was in a time of struggle. He shared, “I don’t even know what it feels like to be happy in my life or business anymore”. After 5 sessions, his life and company had turned around, he “felt happy for the first time in years”, and his revenue was up 250%. It’s likely that you can guess… I now coach people, having about 3-6 active clients at a time.

With that wind in my sails, I decided to unearth an idea I’d had and mapped out for years: a group coaching program for people who want to run businesses that don’t run them. I pulled out my copious notes, made adjustments, and within a month, had created the entire program and launched enrollment in November. Come January, the program will begin for a whole year with real people! This truly was the year of letting things unfold, taking action on them, and pushing myself outside of my own limitations and resistances. 

Still April, I sat down to determine what would be the most impactful use of my time. This is an important exercise for anyone like me who has multiple plates in the air all the time. Some things that came up were audience growth and getting super-precise on my messaging as I worked towards my next book publishing. So, I decided to scrimmage before the big game (so to speak) when I’ll do a media tour: I set out to be a guest on 30 podcasts.

A simple Facebook post turned into 289 comments and 60 podcasts booked in 60 days. Just the rehearsal I needed as well as a great way to start to see which podcasts really moved the needle (I wrote a whole piece here on this should you want to know the mechanics of how to do this for yourself). Those also parlayed into a few major ones, like Jenna Kutcher’s Goal Digger podcast that will release 2 days before Christmas to an audience of about 1M, and a guest appearance in Jesse Itzler’s mastermind as a paid expert speaker…the audio of which I turned into a resource on my website (double-win)! 

Another win: being on the podcast of a former Shark Tank company. The host told me afterward that she thought my work would be all fluff but ended up taking more notes on my episode than any before and was totally blown away. It’s moments like that which remind me that we need to put our heads down and do the work, concerning ourselves less with what others are up to if it’s going to cause comparison and doubt.

Somewhere in this period, I went vegan for 2 months as an experiment. I certainly felt good (not tremendously different since I eat relatively healthily anyway) but gave it up once international travel came up again as it was near impossible to eat vegan in Cuba.

After hosting a high school friend for the weekend, it was off to the nicest resort I’ve ever stayed in: Rosewood Mayakoba in Mexico for a summit and pampering. I’m forever holding every place up to the standard of this one… no bueno.

After a couple of weeks back home to work, reconnect with friends, and decompress, we planned a trip with my parents (now residents of Panama) to meet up in Cuba. Fortunately for us, we went mere days before Trump imposed greater restrictions on travel and visas there. We had a great time learning salsa, touring Hemingway history, driving in classic cars, drinking mojitos, learning about the complicated history, and taking in the beauty of Havana. One thing I’ve been working on as I grow older and establish more and more of a life outside of my nuclear family is to find ways to connect with them even though we live all over the world. Admittedly, it doesn’t always come naturally to me, but trips like this help to remind me that we can’t characterize people, especially family, by how we knew them when we last spent the most time together. So, in this case, high school. I tend to get stuck in my mind seeing myself as 18-year-old me and they as themselves 17 years ago…which isn’t fair to either of us. So, real-life experience helps to chip away at that fable.

We returned home for a wedding and soon met the brother of a dear friend who offered to host a sound bath and cacao ceremony in our living room for us and 6 friends. It was one of the most memorable experiences we’ve had in our home, and provided deeper confirmation for me to continue fearlessly to do the work I’m doing.

Next up, a welcomed visit from my aunt and cousin followed by some initial explorations of lake living. Brendan grew up in Cape Cod on the ocean, and the one thing Atlanta doesn’t have is water in the city. So we began a many-month adventure to learn about second homes on lakes in Georgia. For a while it seemed quite likely we’d bite, but ultimately tabled it.

Next, I headed to my tri-annual Emory board meeting, and after a cumulative 13 years on various boards for the school, this time on the school’s primary board, I resigned. I came to a place of wanting to slough off that which didn’t feel additive and this was a clear choice. Fellow board members chuckled because I made the decision during the meeting, walked up to the staffer in charge during lunch, shared my resignation, said a few goodbyes, and departed. Quick and painless, feeling no need to drag it out.

Never afraid of a disagreeable climate, we drove to Charleston in the sweltering heat of June to catch up with friends. Little did I know, this set in motion a week of leadup to Brendan’s proposal. Subsequently, he traveled to 5 cities that week, and about 1/3 of his suitcase was filled with crystals, sage, and other items he’d use as part of our engagement journey days later.

Rather than try to recreate it, here’s the post I shared a couple of days after:

We’re engaged! On Friday, June 21st, a day symbolizing both the day of the month we met as well as the Solstice (a day of light and regeneration), Brendan lured me to the US Capital for “a private tour with the Senate minority leader”. Admittedly, I wasn’t that into the idea and almost opted out to do some work…but he won me over with a rousing speech about Congress and Government process.

As we arrived, passed through security, got our credentials, and headed up to Senator Schumer’s office, we were told “the tour is on the balcony”. As we were escorted out to his private balcony, overlooking the National Mall and Washington Monument, Brendan grabbed my hands, got on 2 knees (not 1), and asked me to marry him. And, spoiler alert, I said “yes”!

I feel incredibly grateful to have met this man almost 3 years ago in Portland, Oregon (thanks Breakout!). We were in a small group conversation and when he first spoke, I remember my first thought was, “that’s an incredible human”. I could feel his energy, it had nothing to do with his words.

We had several connected conversations that weekend that led to our first date in LA immediately after. When the 2 days in LA ended, I moved my ring from my right hand to my left ring finger, as though I had a premonition that this would one day be the outcome.

That being said, I never wanted to be married, and it was a huge area of growth for me in our relationship to unwind old, self-imposed identities, and instead, be willing to allow this beautiful soul to love me and help me chip away at my walls and blind spots.

I used to allow an incomplete kind of love into my life because it’s all I knew and thought I deserved. And then I met Brendan and wondered how it could be possible that such a huge-hearted, beautiful-spirited man could exist and love me so wholly. And yet, he continued to share more of himself and offer patience and grace as I grew and let him in more and more. Together, we never cease to laugh, adventure, support, and grow. And now, we celebrate the beginning of a lifetime of that and more!

We went from there to a day full of beautiful surprises like lunch with my friend who helped him design and source the ring and a night in St. Michaels, Maryland. We woke up the next morning to my favorite part of the engagement experience: we laid out the crystals he’d lugged, saged away any of our old energy, and I guided us in a visualization about our future together.

A week or two passed for us to let it set in, and we were headed to The Cape for the 4th of July. I tell Brendan often that I’m grateful he’s from such a charming place where we love to go and visit. There are few places more picturesque and Americana than Cape Cod over July 4th. A week and a half there fishing, boating, walking on the beach, working, and celebrating the soon-to-be in-laws’ 45th wedding anniversary, we came home for a short stint before heading to celebrate a milestone anniversary of my parents: 50 years! I mean, holy shit, that’s a long time… 

They decided to bring the family together in St. Kitts, so we took an overnight pitstop in Puerto Rico to connect with an old friend and see what’s it like 2 years after Hurricane Maria (for the record: San Juan is fully operational and a great place to spend some tourism dollars). Afterward, we jetted to St. Kitts for a week of quality time with the family, which in my family means ATV tours, snorkeling, jet-skiing, and a rainforest tour.

The introvert in me was ready for some solo time, but, instead, we greeted Brendan’s parents at the ATL airport upon landing from St. Kitts to immediately go check out lake houses again. A whirlwind weekend of exploring, capped off by a baby shower and hosting a gathering at our house for people who want to learn about visiting Cuba. Because why not throw a couple more things in?? But seriously, I was at the end of my energetic rope after all of that and reminded myself to create better boundaries to protect my well-being.

And…if that weren’t enough travel or family time, a week later we headed back to Cape Cod because it’s Brendan’s favorite in August. Plus, my parents were in Rhode Island with friends, so we finally gathered them up and had the parents meet after almost 3 years. Fortunately, they all love golf, so they loved each other.

I departed The Cape early to head to Rhode Island to meet some girlfriends in Newport for a gorgeous weekend. This trip reminded me that no matter how much time passes, growth areas don’t improve unless you work on them. I recall having insecurities flare up during this trip where I felt left out, like I was back in grade school, but hilariously, not because anyone actually was. It was a story I was telling myself, then allowing to perpetuate and find evidence to support. 

That was followed up by a few days in Atlanta for work and rest, then off to Deep Creek Lake, Maryland to spend the weekend with my best friend since age 10. It’s amazing to see someone grow and evolve over 25 years and get to spend real quality time with her family now.

Next, we were invited to try an experience that was new to both of us: an authentic sweat lodge and plant medicine experience in North Georgia. My expectation was that it would be like a sauna. I was wrong. It was 2 hours of the most intense darkness, heat, and intensity I’ve ever felt. Dripping with sweat as I finally exited, I was deeply impressed with my ability to withstand it and struggle much less than I’d initially anticipated upon first moments of the experience. We all have much more strength within than we typically access, and moments like these are reminders of that. My intention and hope were to meet my spirit guides and learn more about them. I began to connect, but still have a ways to go!

That experience got me in a clear headspace to co-host my first day-long retreat at Serenbe, an idyllic Truman-Show-like community south of Atlanta. I used the momentum of the feedback from the participants to continue to teach in these ways.

After that weekend, I began to see an energy healer and revisit an acupuncturist. I tend to be one part believer, one part skeptic (makes sense since I think I’m here as a bridge between the spiritual and earthly, so understanding both perspectives is critical). Did either ‘work’? Up to interpretation…

I was thrilled to get a call from the press team for Visa, who invited me to do a similar job as I had done the year prior for Chase: to go to DC and be their on-site correspondent for their women’s entrepreneurship event: She’s Next. I walked away feeling so high from that, noting times like this when my energy spikes, meaning I need to invest more into those activities.

Back in Atlanta a couple of days later, Brendan and I were invited to dinner at a summer camp about an hour away. We love the host so we didn’t ask questions. We were blown away to discover that we were having dinner with 8 people, in a horshoecrap-shaped treehouse, with Zac Brown (the musician), fed by his private chef, and that he’d teach us to throw axes and share his newly released album with us and tell us the backstories. It was an unforgettable night!

October came around, and we flew to Tulsa, Oklahoma for Breakout: the group/event where we’d met almost exactly 3 years before (but in Portland, Oregon). It was a great weekend of learning, challenging conversations, friendship, and line dancing!

I came home just in time for an unpleasant reality: jury duty. It was my third time to be called, but never in this county. Naively, I assumed it would be like the first two where I was out by lunch. Not this time because I was called, and it was a murder trial. 11 hours later, I thanked my lucky stars that I wasn’t selected, as carrying the weight of someone’s fate and another family’s justice in my hands was not something I was prepared to do. The weight of that experience stayed with me for a long while as it was one more reminder about how much I feel compelled to play a role in improving our broken criminal “justice” system. I reached out to several more organizations that support those who are incarcerated or are returning citizens by teaching life and business skills. Sadly, I was rejected by all of them for not being local or their being at capacity. If you know of one, holler! 

Then began a string of dance practices to learn a traditional Indian dance that I’d soon be performing for my friend’s wedding in India (where subsequently, I’m writing this from now). I felt nervous as I didn’t want to do a poor or insensitive job of performing this dance! Fortunately, old cheerleader me came back to life and got it down pat!

October 21st rolled around and Brendan and I celebrated 3 years together. Not wanting to go far, but wanting to commemorate it, we drove to the mountains for a weekend, capped off with a favorite of mine (not his): outlet shopping!

The next day, I headed to a meeting at a film studio in Atlanta to have one of the most memorable meetings of my life: the president of the studio saw my series with Deepak and loved it. She said she wants to create a tv or streaming show with me and we are now in the very early stages of exploring that! I will never forget driving home and feeling elated…whereas in the meeting I looked neutral because I couldn’t process this fast enough… it felt surreal!

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been a tv lover, and more so, an admirer of Oprah and that format. I’m deeply curious and, therefore, love to ask questions and get to the heart of the matter. With all the interviews I’ve done over the last 18 months, I’ve become quite comfortable doing so. She saw that and said that she sees me ‘taking over the Oprah lane’. Life. Made. She asked me to make a pitch deck for the show concepts. Having never done that, I naturally said “yes”. 2 days later she had 2 decks on her desk and we moved to the next step! Here’s to seeing that show as a reality on next year’s update!

Brendan and I started getting the itch to look at what the Atlanta housing market is like (we’re renting out my house in Decatur currently…cash flow!) and renting our current spot while Brendan was getting to know the city). A new favorite Sunday activity: open houses. Unimpressed with the options, we began to consider building from the ground up. In research mode as we speak (or, as we read, in this case).

November arrives and we fly back to DC, 4 months after being engaged there, to gather local friends for a beautiful party hosted by my aunt and uncle.

A couple of fundraisers later, it’s our birthdays, and we’re ringing in another rotation around the sun! Oh, and thanks to Brendan’s working formerly in the Obama administration, we got to meet him!

And, because I’ve delayed the writing of this, another month has passed and we’ve traveled to Colombia and Panama for Thanksgiving, then 3 days later, off to India for 2 weeks, where you find me now, in Kerala, at an ayurvedic retreat center.

As I work through the chronological happenings and learnings of the year in review, there are many other elements that don’t naturally find a home. So allow me to move to those reflections next:

On friendships: the older I get, the more energetically-introverted I become, meaning that I need more time to myself, as well as much prefer 1-on-1 and smaller group environments to connect more intentionally and deeply. Because of this, some friendships change, allowing for space for others to emerge. I’ve been inviting in a new crop of friends whose wisdom and interest in spiritual and personal development mirrors mine. I’ve been grateful to receive that abundantly which has taught me so much (including but not limited to some abilities I have in reiki, energy work, and card reading)!

Two of them emerged to pull me out of my comfort zone and co-host a workshop and a retreat with me. I felt really nervous going into them: that I wouldn’t be able to carry my weight and that I’d have little to offer the participants. They helped me move through that and lovingly nudged me into doing things for the first time like leading a guided visualization for 20 women, bringing some to tears. I walked away really proud of myself for facing that fear, and really grateful to them for allowing me to borrow confidence again until I could see it for myself.

I also cheered on so many milestones for friends this year: births, marriages, engagements, books published, career highs, and the like!

On luxuries: I’m all about balance in life and have come to realize that pampering myself in certain ways has become an extension of self-love and care. So, much like in years past, I’ve kept up my lash extensions, massages (even some at home), and house cleanings!

On fitness: Our new-ish home location is in Midtown Atlanta near the park, which has been a game-changer for more walking and less driving. That has been a fitness win along with yoga and Jillian Michaels’ app which I started to do religiously in my room every morning (a miracle for me since fitness tends to fall to the wayside).

On business: With Network Under 40, I said goodbye to both Nashville and Baltimore directors and brought on some fresh new faces to take over! I handed off almost all of the day-to-day responsibilities to others on the team and freed myself up for other projects. I created a virtual course to teach others the step-by-step methods I’ve used to host and grow a profitable networking events side hustle so others can do it for themselves as well as celebrated 8 years in business (going on 9 soon). 

For Equitable Payments, my credit card processing business, if you’d told me 10 (almost 11) years ago when I started this company with my twin brother that in years 6-10, I’d spend about 1-2 hours/week on it and make more than I did when I spent full time on it, I’d be as shocked as you probably are reading that. Yet, it’s true. And it’s been such a gift to enjoy both the fruits of those 6+ years of hard work as well as to have them underpin me so I’ve been able to have much less fear and stress in launching all of my other subsequent projects. 

For Finance Whiz Kids, this book still remains something near and dear to me although it never picked up steam as I’d hoped. It continues to sell in limited quantities, and I remain optimistic that I and/or others will continue to teach future generations sound financial habits. 

On cultural activities: Got in a good variety this year including ‘Drunk Shakespeare’ (thanks sister-in-law for that gift!), modern dance performance with my friend as choreographer, Mariah Carey concert,

courtside at the Hawks (3x), a trip to the zoo (where I realized that I don’t like them…I just feel bad for the animals), stand up comedy show, Atlanta United soccer game, Yayoi Kusama: infinity mirrors exhibit, Oklahoma State Fair (all hail everything fried), and a first trip to a Christmas tree farm (leaving with no tree).

On additional lessons:

As I’ve leaned deeply into my life as an online educator and coach teaching folks how to live their life by design, build a business to fund it, and a network to support it…there have been many times where I’ve doubted, wondered why I’m working so hard when I could just coast off my other businesses’ income, when I compare myself to those who are doing it ‘better’ or for a bigger audience, or who seem to have their shit totally together and I wonder why I’m even trying. But then I get reassurance from coaching clients, total internet strangers, or people whom I know and had no idea they were paying attention, and that gives me a second wind to keep pushing. Plus, when I look back, I realize how much I’ve grown and how far I’ve come in general, but specifically in this work in the last 2 years.

Plus, I tend to find that momentum and ease are two things that signal you’re in the right place. I don’t mean to give the impression that things will always be easy, but that things will click and you’ll go with the current, not against it, when you’re in the right place. That’s how this work has felt as a whole, and it’s my work to overcome the limiting beliefs, insecurities, doubts, and fears. Plus, the more I work with clients, the more it gives me positive stress to be at my best for them.

And on that note, while external confirmations don’t really matter, here’s a few that were exciting: I was featured in Cosmopolitan magazine, Inc, Forbes, and several other publications.

I was reminded just as much this year as other years that my internal guidance system speaks via my intuition, and I need to trust it. It has never steered me wrong, but when I doubt it, things go awry. 

I’ve never felt more fearless and also, still have much to tackle in this arena.

I learned through much of the turnover on my teams that a trigger for me is feeling misunderstood, which goes deep into my childhood. 

I’ve learned the value of margin in my schedule. Where once I chose to pack it to the brim, now I much prefer gaps and spaces and open blocks and unplanned evenings wherever possible. I feel it allows for the natural energies and happenings of life to emerge rather than feel forced or overdone.

Animals are healing and one of the primary, yet simple, highlights of my year was time cuddling with my cat, Chairman Meow.

I incorporated a new morning routine when I’m home: post to IG and scroll the news while my brain turns on, brush teeth, gratitude and appreciation journal, meditate, drink water, 7 minute Jillian Michaels app workout. I’ve felt more energized as a result.

Speaking of: I’m learning more and more through practice that energy is the thing I care to manage even more than my time. So, I choose how, where, and with whom I spend my time more carefully so as to protect my energy.

I learned a new skill: website design (not sure I can technically call it that since everything is so plug-and-play now) but hell, it’s beautiful!

I’ve learned a lot about the growth that happens uniquely in a loving partnership. That and how my perception of my own identity can and should shift (isn’t stagnant) and that, with the right partner, you can be lovingly confronted with your shortcomings and areas for growth. I’ve also learned that freedom is not lost in relationship (once a major fear).

Straight from my journal: “Do the things you love and that excite you, not seeking a specific outcome but because you believe in them and they light you up.”

“You never know who is watching, nor do things happen when you’d expect or on your timeline. Trust, be patient, do the work.”

While I’ve been a believer in the law of attraction and that our thoughts become our reality, I’d never fully grasped before the concept that when you doubt the thing you’re seeking to create, that doubt energy is what is matched. So, I began to notice those times when I wanted something and tried to feel and speak it into existence but realized that my doubt was overpowering it.

You never know where people will go and grow and how relationships will evolve. I have a million examples of this, but one is that now my first business mentor, now not only has me on his board, but had me speak and teach his MBA students about entrepreneurship. It felt like such a beautiful full-circle moment.

Seems basic, but I continue to remind myself that we are all of equal value: none lesser, none more. The latter here is tougher for me as someone who’s historically struggled with the narrative that ‘I’m not good enough’, generally thinking others were better.

With maturity (and meditation) I’m lightyears less emotionally reactive than I used to be. This plays out with work stress and family stress the most.

I’ve began to crack beneath the surface of perfectionism and realize that it’s actually a shield that blocks me from feeling all sorts of emotions that, when you boil it down, block love, because it’s imperfect. Perfectionism is really an excuse to not expose ourselves fully.

I continue to see that goals and priorities will change, but values don’t. I remain steadfast in mine (freedom, connection, generosity, learning/growth) and do regular self-checks to be sure my actions and how I spend my time are aligned with them.

Mantras for me: 

-Process over progress.

-Inputs over outcomes.

-More heart, less head.

-Self-care is not selfish.

I continue to get more comfortable with discomfort and ambiguity and get clearer that uncertainty is the only certainty.

NOW is it. Nothing else exists. The more we can be here now, and raise our vibes (aka joy, fun, love, etc), that’s the real goal!

Putting my value into outside factors like accolades, titles, and money will never be fulfilling.

Share what I have (ideas, time, love, resources). I will likely think it’s way less valuable than the person who needs it does.

Stop searching externally for answers. They exist within us. It’s about tapping into them. Therein lies the work.

Celebrate small wins and ask myself “How would historic me feel about me today?”

You never know how the seeds you’re planting will grow, but do it anyway.

Now is just as good a time as any. When we wait for the ‘right time’, we’re usually making excuses and stalling. So, start!

We usually need to see models of what we desire to do, so collect people who are doing cool shit to huddle up around you.

All aspects of life occur in seasons, some seasons are for rest and rejuvenation, and others are for growth and blossoming. 

My holding myself back is my withholding that which someone needs from me (aka I’m robbing them by selfishly staying small).

The things that spark jealousy are those that I want for myself, so flip the feeling to one that inspires me to work towards it.

Winners do quit…strategically. Saying “no” is important.

Simple pleasures really are the greatest ones. When I look back at my journal, so much of it is filled with appreciation for quality time with friends and loved ones, my pet, books, breezes, sharing/giving, and nature.

Be kinder to myself. I would never let someone else talk to me the way I talk to myself.

There is a difference between wisdom and knowledge. Knowing something doesn’t mean you’ve truly embodied it.

Like attracts like, so take a look at your circumstances to understand what’s going on internally.

35 by the numbers:

-35 books read

-7 countries visited

-119 days traveled

-80+ speaking engagements and media opportunities (1 of which was my first time sharing the stage with Brendan!)

-Countless dinner parties, book salons, and gatherings hosted in our home

-More saved and earned than any year before

-Thousands of connections catalyzed to help bring out the best in others

-41 articles written and interviews conducted

-Countless memories (unless you want to count out those listed in this blog post!)

If you’ve read all the way to the end, thank you and cheers to the best year yet for all of us!

Read More

34 In Review

For the first time in a decade, I’ve procrastinated writing this annual reflection which feels like a treasured time capsule.

After last year’s 77 pager (with pictures), it felt like a daunting task.

So, I’m giving myself permission to share it in a more crude fashion, so as to complete it. Why? Because I believe that done is better than perfect.

So, although it’s already 3 months into my 35th year, I’m compiling a bulleted list with what I did, how I grew, and what I learned.

As I share every year, I do this for a few primary reasons: 1. To have for myself to reflect back on, 2. To commemorate the moments (big and small) that happened over the previous 365 days, and 3. Because each time I share it, others say it sparks in them some version of the same practice which often results in gratitude and more intentionality in how they spend their time in the upcoming year.

Sharing what I learn is important because if my experiences can offer any amount of truth, inspiration, or guidance to others, I’m all for it.

So, let’s dive into that which was 34…

-At the start of the previous year, I was still living part-time in NYC until Brendan officially moved to ATL in January.

-I was honored with Atlanta’s 40 Under 40 award days before my birthday. When asked what the best advice I had to offer was, I shared: ‘Don’t take yourself too seriously’.

-Brendan and I have birthdays one day apart (plus 6 years) so we hosted a joint celebration in ATL and then in Brooklyn.

-I got frustrated with people asking shitty questions when they meet new people so I published ‘The 55 best questions to ask to break the ice and really get to know someone’, which was read over 1.1M times so far. Apparently I’m not the only one who wants to have more meaningful conversations.

-Got to read a dedication I wrote during the ceremony for the wedding of a couple I set up— one of my greatest life accomplishments!

-Spent Thanksgiving in Vancouver with family.

-Post family time, Brendan and I got cozy on the Sunshine Coast (picture Xmas tree forests with waterfalls, fireplaces, and home cooked meals).

-Re-opened some old family wounds and experienced deep pain as a result. Learned that being right doesn’t always mean things go your way. I was also reminded that being an adult child is hard and that family relationships can the hardest.

-Spent months upon months diving into myself to uncover what was at the base of a nagging feeling I felt that there was a new incarnation of my career coming, but I had to do the work to figure out what it was. After a lot of soul searching, I realized it was the need to share what I’d learned about how to intentionally design my life so others could have the resources, tools, and inspiration I’d compiled and learned over the years.

-With that, I had to decide how. Recognizing that I always knew that after writing my kids book, I’d one day write at least one adult non-fiction work, I spoke it to life and said, ‘I’m going to write a New York Times best-seller’.

-I kid you not, within weeks, I went from having no idea what to do next, to have meetings with 5 literary agents, getting offers from 4 of them, and signing with one of them.

-Because of that, I learned a lot…fast…about what it takes to get a publishing deal these days and to write a great book. So, I set out to do many of those things: hired a writing partner and started to grow an audience via a personal brand (both to demonstrate to a publisher that I had people listening who would want a book from me, as well as to get to know who my audience really was and what they really needed).

-I was a podcast guest a in a nationally syndicated radio show’s studio.

-AJ, my older bro, finally got to cash in on my earlier birthday gift and have, as he said, one of the top experiences of his life: photographing a Miami Dolphins game, on the sidelines, with the official NFL gift I’ve ever given.

-I started to have more challenges with one of my companies, Network Under 40, as I felt myself growing apart from the core audience and as my life changed, I felt tension with running it. This showed in our numbers.

-I got smatterings of pictures and stories all year from families who used my book to teach their kids about financial responsibility. They made me so happy to know that even though it’s not a primary focus for me right now, that my original mission is still in effect!

-Spent my first Xmas with Brendan’s family in Cape Cod (and even learned that they had the same random tradition of doing scratch-offs in their stockings).

-Made some new friends with whom we spent New Years Eve in a cozy North Georgia cabin… those friends are now some of my most dear (a reminder that depth of relationship doesn’t always take a long time).

-Celebrated so many beautiful milestones of my friends: promotions, new career endeavors, entrepreneurial successes, engagements, weddings, babies, and even ending the wrong relationships.

-Took an epic journey by Hiawatha train from Seattle, Washington to Whitefish, Montana, to celebrate a friend’s 50th.

-The fun didn’t stop there- we snowshoed in Glacier National Park and enjoyed the snowy festivities. This also marked my first National Park experience, resulting in my vow to go to more.

-As I got deeper in my knowledge of what it takes to grow a following with a personal brand (working towards the long-term goal of NYT best-seller), I decided I needed to hire a marketing virtual assistant. It was tumultuous, and I made several poor hiring decisions until I didn’t, and found a gem….and then she resigned around my birthday and thus, the challenge to find a new one began. A reminder that the people beside you in your company are so important, and often the biggest challenge to running a business.

-Surprised my mom in SF with my siblings for her 70th birthday.

-House hunted..a lot..and waited for the right fit—and was oh so glad we did because our house is exactly what we wanted! And honestly, I hadn’t realized after living my entire adult life in my first home, how much a change of environment and location can shift your energy!

-The designer in me loved decorating a new house—and as I do— finished it in a week’s time, thanks in huge part to my stylish mom who came and helped pull it all together.

-When I was younger, I was really into black and white film photography. In high school, my art teacher pulled me aside to try to convince me to go to art school instead of Emory. I didn’t, and as I got older, photography became something I did less and less. And then I realized that as I needed to create more photo content to pair with my audience-building goal, I got to re-imagine the way I love photography and art direct myself …even if just for Instagram!

-Got to stand back and watch Brendan’s career grow and see him shine when he launched Forbes Impact…which felt like the proudest stage mom moment!

-Celebrated the weddings of both of my female cousins and in turn, welcomed two incredible men to our family.

-Globe-trotted to many corners of the earth, 12 countries I think… and even literally ran into my older brother AJ on the street in Singapore!

-Walked down memory lane after my parents moved out of my childhood home, first to South Florida, and now to Panama…and as a result, gifted me all of my childhood memories

-Felt a lot of nerves saying yes to facilitating an allstar crew of leaders on a Reality Israel trip (and was so glad I did). Made some lifelong friends and grew a ton as a result. Lessons from it: stop playing small and borrow the confidence that others have in you until you can believe it for yourself.

-Pondered my relationship with time and discovered that I can be a time creator. This is a longer story…

-Accidentally landed my first-ever consulting project to help a private high school develop and execute their first alum engagement strategy.

-Had my first professional photo shoot and first professionally designed personal branded website.

-Dedicated time for the 11th year running as member Emory’s Board.

-Was a guest on dozens of podcasts.

-Interviewed celebrities for the first time. At first I was terrified, and then I got really comfortable and discovered how much I enjoy doing it.

-Dabbled in launching a side project with a new contact and learned that it wasn’t synergistic. Out of that I gained a lot of confidence and turned a pitch into a new best friend.

-Stayed open to the Universe delivering incredible, inspiring new friends—and received it immensely.

-Wrote 30+ articles which were read about 1.5m times in Forbes, Thrive Global, Bossbabes, and other outlets.

-Spoke at many events.

-Hosted 70+ Network Under 40 events in 4 cities.

-Tried acupuncture.

-Kept treating myself to eyelash extensions, hair treatments, massages, mani/pedis, etc…because it feels good to pamper yourself!

-Was hired as an ‘influencer’ as well as an on-site correspondent for Chase Bank…which I learned I loved—and got paid to learn a new skill.

-Supported local events on art, race, and hunger.

-Launched my first virtual course to much success (and executed it for 4 weeks while physically in a different city for each broadcast).

-Attended 7 weddings of beloved friends and family.

-Became a landlord when I rented out my first home.

-Hired a personal at-home trainer…for 2 sessions.

-Read 38 books.

-Got to introduce Brendan to my best childhood friend and his wife over a weekend in Denver…first boyfriend who got his seal of approval 😉.

-Dreamt up a virtual summit to connect with a new audience, launch my brand, do research for my book, deepen relationships with thought leaders in the space…and had never attended let alone thrown one. Was one of the most challenging processes I’ve taken on in business. It took 3x as long as I’d estimated and 5x as much money. But, we had 7,100 people attend from 16 countries, had 45 of the world’s top leaders (like Deepak Chopra, Adam Grant, and Jen Sincero) teaching, attendee feedback was so heartfelt and grateful, and on top of that, I doubled my investment!

-I learned how to interview for the first time through that process and realized that my curiosity and love of question-asking make me the perfect person to do it! That plus I can empathize with the audience to estimate what they’ll want to know and ask that. Oh, and Deepak Chopra was my first ever live interview.

-Went to a polo match for the first time. Made a Pretty Woman reference like a rookie.

-Went to the Masters and had dinner with golf legend Gary Player, then interviewed him.

-Sat courtside at a Hawks game and the mascot aggressively made out with me, much to my dismay.

-Hosted countless parties and dinners in our new home.

-Life changed into a walking-centric one when we moved. We even got rid of my car for over 2 months to experiment with life without one (after getting paid out by Audi to give my car back thanks to their billion dollar legal settlement). We ultimately got a car.

-Mentored at a Startup Weekend, as well as got a co-mentor for myself, and found ‘mentoring moments’ for both my gain and the gain of others.

-Joined another board and turned down a board seat.

-Was a guest on a show that filmed in a real life tv studio.

-As a result of one of my podcast appearances, a reputable publisher heard me and reached out to inquire about working together (and their past clients include 4 of my favorite authors)…it’s all coming together!

-Went to my first Atlanta United Game (now MLS champions).

-As usual, fitness was my weakest point. That said, I got in some yoga, stand up paddle boarding, 10k steps a day for a while, pole dancing, acro yoga, and park walks.

-Took the leap and hired someone to take over my in-person role for Network Under 40 in Atlanta. The hardest part was letting go of control.

-Finished edit 1 of my book proposal…only to get a swift kick in the rear by my agent who wanted hella edits.

-Got way more confident in my own skin.

-Walked up to a comedian (Nikki Glaser) after her set to invite her to do an interview. She said yes, which was a reminder that people are generally open and the worst they can say is no. Plus, when you’re offering something of value, your chances of getting a yes increase substantially.

-Learned that I actually am a really good manager (previously thought I wasn’t because I like to move so quickly and don’t like to worry about fluff over outcomes) when I believe in people and they believe in what I’m building. Was so fortunate to work with some allstars this year who helped me to be a better leader.

-Spoke to a group of inspiring high schoolers.

-Expanded my ideas of what is possible.

-Brought on bigger name and bigger dollar sponsors than ever before for my companies.

-Experienced more stress and anxiety than I recall since when I first started my businesses 10 years ago, all thanks to a shitty hire I made, which turned into 6 months of delays on my virtual summit, a lot of money tied up, and a lot of fear over the impact it could have on my reputation and relationships.

-Lawyers got involved and guess what— it all worked out!

-Lots of concerts and cultural moments (Music Midtown, Lauryn Hill, Christina Aguilera, Aladdin the musical…to name a few.)

-Learned so much about digital marketing, funnels, personal branding, and growing an audience.

-Got hired again by Chase to attend Inc 5000 as their influencer and on-site correspondent.

-Brendan’s sister came for a visit.

-Piloted a live virtual course, got feedback (and got paid to test it), and then built out an evergreen, fully digital and self-paced version to teach others everything I’ve learned about hosting networking events so they can host their own.

-Watched a ton of documentaries (and reality tv)… a girl’s gotta turn her brain off and decompress!

-Started recording episodes for a limited-series podcast with my friend Elizabeth who is the #1 podcaster for food and wine.

-Celebrated when best friends moved back to Atlanta.

-Welcomed my first nephew to the family!

-Became more of an introvert and had to erect new boundaries to protect my energy.

-Spent a beautiful Thanksgiving with family in Santa Fe.

-Went on a road trip to get more connected with America and visited The Grand Canyon, Painted Desert, Antelope Canyon, and Horseshoe Bend.

-Lost my Paris virginity… a place I’d held out on visiting for a ‘romantic adventure’. It was everything I hoped for–except for the violent protests…

-Spent a few nights in the only place on Earth where I care about food more than anything else (Rome).

-Flew straight to Miami for one night at Art Basel.

-Then, straight to Esalen (Big Sur) for a couples retreat.

-Celebrated our first Xmas in our home together with Brendan’s family who came for a visit.

-Departed for a magical new year in Guatemala.

-Followed my instinct to email the people with whom I’d collaborated this year and within minutes, Deepak wrote me back. Within 20 more minutes, we decided to launch a video series in January 2019 called ‘Diving Deep With Deepak & Darrah’ which is now live.

-Decided to channel my nerves into action.

-Began to trust myself more and doubt myself less.

-For the first time ever, instead of making a laundry list of goals, visions and mantras, I committed to one thing for this new year: to have fewer goals. Why? Because I want to allow life’s opportunities to guide me where I’m needed (and because drive is not something I lack). As someone who is dangerously focused on doing anything to which I commit (even to myself), it feels expansive to let go in this way.

-Because of that, I’m learning a lot about having an intention and releasing the expectation of how it will play out.

-I can say, without hesitation, that I’ve never felt more self-assured. While my self-doubts haven’t disappeared, I’m finally realizing that everything I need is already within me, and it’s my responsibility to unearth it and share it.

-You can only be what you’ll allow yourself to become. I was reminded time and again that my limitations are my own doing and that I need to dream bigger to achieve bigger, and more so, to keep growing and serving.

-Was reminded that any time I’m stuck in a rut or down, the best medicine is to do for others.

-Was unafraid to advocate for myself and speak up for my needs in ways big and small.

-The power of patience and persistence are key. Through exercises like this one, I can see how doing the work, day in and out, is what it really takes to create whatever you desire.

-There’s hella power in ambiguity and uncertainty…yet we’re so often programmed to run from it. Learning more and more to sit in that discomfort.

-People are complex and multi-faceted. There are moments when I need others to give me credit if they’re just seeing one dimension, and I’m continually learning to offer the same generosity to others.

-Satisfaction/fulfillment/happiness isn’t a destination. It’s in the present moment and you have to slow down to recognize it.

-I am just one tiny person amongst billions on this planet, co-existing while we each live our own meaningful versions of life, which is a blip on the spectrum of time. On the one hand, this realization can be incredibly liberating. On the other, it can be entirely diminishing. And that’s just it- that murky middle where things can be both at the same time. It frees me from taking myself too seriously, all the while, still empowering me to make an impact.

-It’s important to do a self-check with social media and determine if the time you’re spending on it elevating you. When it’s not, I turn it off.

-Not everyone will ‘get it’ or will be along for your whole journey. That’s ok. There are seasons to relationships.

What would a year be without travel? Here’s where I went…in order:




-Sunshine Coast



-Cape Cod


-Blue Ridge, GA





-Whitefish, Montana






-Playa del Carmen

-Mexico City



-Hilton Head



-Del Ray Beach, FL


-West Palm Beach


















-Mendocino/Elk, CA





-Cape Cod





-Portland/Hood River




-San Antonio




-Santa Fe

-Grand Canyon, Horseshoe Bend, Antelope Canyon







-Big Sur/Esalen




34 by the numbers:

100,000+ miles flown

12 countries visited

25 months celebrated with Brendan

11 years of home ownership

10 years running Equitable Payments

7.5 years running Network Under 40

38 states where Equitable Payments operates

4 markets for Network Under 40

192 Network Under 40 events

8 team members

38 books read

30+ articles published


Grateful for another rotation around the Sun. For the lessons, the growth, the experiences, and opportunities.

And, if you read all the way to the end, shoot me a note- I owe you a congrats and thank you!

Until next year…

Read More

What Used to Be A Blog Is Now Basically An E-Book: The Tale of 33

I turned 34 last Monday and decided that the best way to spend my birthday was to reflect and write my traditional annual blog. What I didn’t anticipate was that I spent the entire day writing, and it turned into an e-book, pictures, chapters and all!

So many lessons learned and experiences remembered, all chronicled here. I hope it’s helpful to you in your journey in some way. All 77 pages of it.

Bonus points to anyone who reads it in its entirety, and thanks for allowing me the space to share.

Here is it.

Until next year…


Read More

32 in Review

I couldn’t think of a better time to reflect and write my 7th annual birthday “year in review” blog than now. I’ve spent the last week in Bali amongst a group of 30 entrepreneurs, learning together about both business and personal growth in arguably one of the most beautiful settings on the planet.

I’ve always known that sharing space with people who share a mission to always be bettering themselves, and as a result, use that to better the world around them in their special way, would result in nothing but positive outcomes. This week has been no different and has set the perfect stage for me to dive deeply into what has become a cherished annual practice of commemorating the close to one year, and the beginning of a new one.

I’m a very intentional person, so I try to only make decisions actively, not passively. So in doing this long exercise now 7 times over, I’m often asked why. My reply is that by taking time to slow down, remember, and pay homage, it allows me to see on a greater arch the big and small things that occurred in a year (which my forgetful mind often loses), as well as to help me in visioning for the future.  Time passes by so quickly and it’s so easy to forget what I did last weekend, let alone what happened 12 months ago.  So this has become my time capsule for each year.

It’s taken a lot of personal growth to get a place where I can make this public and not fear what anyone on the other end will think. This is for me, but I make it public because others have shared their own positive takeaways and things this has sparked for them as a result of my sharing it. So, I continue to do so for as long as it resonates with me, and look forward to continuing to share my journey with you.

So here it is, year 32 in review:

32 began as I boarded a cruise ship out of Miami, heading to the Bahamas, alongside 3,000 innovators, entrepreneurs, and creatives for “Summit at Sea”. Mother Nature didn’t allow us to actually get off that ship and get to the island, but it was a powerful way to begin the new year. I extended my stay in Miami after the cruise for a short moment to gather my thoughts and rest after immediately having boarded the ship post a 10-day jaunt in Rwanda and Kenya (which deserves a whole post of it’s own, as so much was experienced and learned on that journey).

I returned to Atlanta thereafter to have a belated birthday party with 50 of my favorite local friends and soaked in the love that one feels on those special types of occasions. But of course, I didn’t stay in Atlanta for long as yet another year of incredible travel was about to get underway.

A favorite quote of mine is “travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer”…and I sure hope so because it’s certainly the thing that most dings at my bank account! So, with that in mind, I was off to Belize for Thanksgiving with my family, which included a healthy competition of fishing and lobster diving, lots of snorkeling, swimming with sharks without a cage, and an unusual solo stay in an international destination after the family departed.

As the December holidays approached, before I knew it, I was on a flight to Lima, Peru, to kick-start an adventure around the country including Lake Titicaca, The Sacred Valley, and Cusco. I’m a sucker for living history, and Peru, particularly Macchu Picchu, did not disappoint.

While on that trip, I was completing my annual goals, one of which was to relearn to ski after a 21-year hiatus. Much to my delight, a friend reached out to me 2 weeks later, offering me a place to stay at the chalet he’d rented in Zermatt, Switzerland in February. What better way to relearn to ski, I thought? So of course that came next.

But, before that, I made a quick trip back to where I spent half of my childhood (Baltimore) for the surprise 70th birthday roast of my dad. It was a great night celebrating him through his favorite communication tool: jokes.

As February turned into March, it was time to go back to Austin for SXSW to visit with many friends in attendance, learn, and connect with new people. From there I went to straight to LA (Santa Monica), for some sun, friends, and reflection. From there, straight to SF, my home-away-from home, for the usual: deeper exploration of the city, reconnection with family and friends, and to continue to develop community there. I even got to do a quick Half Moon Bay trip and get out of the city for a bit.

Time to fly back East before driving to the coast of North Carolina for the beautiful wedding of a close friend.

Shortly thereafter, tragedy struck for two of my childhood friends who each lost a parent unexpectedly, so I hopped a flight home to Baltimore. This set into motion a ripple effect of contemplation about my relationship with my parents and my sincere intention to not have regrets whenever this fateful day comes.

Frankly, here, my timeline gets a little hazy, so let me save everyone a little reading and rattle off some of the next destinations: Paid a visit with some friends to our friendly neighbor to the North (Canada) and explored Montreal. Headed to China for the first solo trip I’ve ever taken with my parents to visit my cousin, explore, and see the Great Wall. Snuck in 2 more visits to SF, 2 visits to NYC and one to the Hamptons, 2 trips to DC (one for an incredible White House event called “The United State of Women Summit” where I got to share a space with the likes of both Obamas, Biden, Oprah, Warren Buffet, and the list goes on and on), a revisit to Detroit, 2 more visits to Miami, 2 trips to Chicago, 1 more stop in Baltimore, the Poconos for a mother/daughter wellness retreat, Philly for my favorite thing (an Indian wedding) and got to pay a visit to my childhood home just outside the city, a lovely jaunt to Portland, 2 visits to Nashville (once to launch our newest Network Under 40 city, and once for Camp No Counselors…adult summer camp), other Portland (Maine) where I was in a sailing accident…hand injury included, a Global Shapers retreat in North Georgia, a LEAD Atlanta retreat in South Georgia, an incredible Eastern European adventure including Hungary, Croatia, Bosnia and Italy (even got to practice my rusty Italian skills), St Simons Island, a weekend at Lake Oconee, an actual night of camping, completed by getting stranded with my group while tubing on the river and almost not being able to get off it, and most recently, to wrap up the year, a trip to Bali and South Korea, bookended with a Thanksgiving stop in Denver with the family.

And yes, in case you’re wondering, I work, and do so from all of these locations.

Each year I write out goals for myself, with mantras I select to help me describe how I want the year to feel. This year’s were: Dream, Achieve, Do, Give, and Live Big.

The adjectives I chose to describe the year were: generosity, curiosity, abundance, love, passion, adventure, intentionality, gratitude, non-attachment, romance, compassion, peace, freedom, fun, authenticity, wellness, and prosperity. Clearly I had a lot to do this year…

In reflecting back, there were a number of lessons I’ve learned, some of which include:

Presence: being present in the moment.

Boundaries: being thoughtful and stronger about creating and keeping them for myself, mostly around my time.

Beauty: Realizations about my lifelong struggle with beauty, what we’re told is ‘beautiful’, and the beginning stages of acceptance about my own beauty, which I’ve never been seen.

Personal worth: Recognition of every human’s equal worth and not characterizing myself as less than some and/or greater than others.

Success: Not defining my success by ‘resume virtues’, but rather, by character, growth, what I have to share and offer to others, and experiences. I also have the ability to continue to define what success looks like for me, and not allow other pressures to define it on my behalf.

Don’t take things personally: In line with my favorite book The Four Agreements, I worked on one of the agreements to (in my case) take less things personally, recognizing how selfish it is to assume people’s actions, words, or inactions are in any way an assault on me.

No year is complete without some reflection on dating. Last year I made the conscious effort to ‘date like a man’, which meant that I would date many people casually and be open to what might come out of it, but not attach myself to any one person too quickly. This year I just let things evolve, happy with that experience, but also open to whatever might be, understanding that I can’t control or predict this arena.

The lineup of dates this year was diverse as ever, including men in San Diego, Atlanta, NYC, Baltimore, and beyond. And, as usual, I continued on my “UN of dating” streak, and dated the gamut of races and cultures. I even got a completely unprecedented date request in the form of a FedEx package including a book for me to read, a 45-minute personal video message, and 21 pages of typed information about this stranger and why he wanted to date me. Flattering to say the very least.

Most of these were short-lived connections, and as my 32nd year came to a close, I was fortunate to meet an incredible man who is in my life today. Regardless of what the future holds for us, he’s already elevated my expectations of what partnership can be like, and I’m grateful to have met him.

I also had three men from my distant past circle back and apologize for their historic actions. These were each wonderfully unexpected surprises, because to hear the things you once so badly wanted to, and then to get them out-of-the-blue, was very much appreciated.

On to family we go, where I vowed to get out of my comfort zone in these relationships. Going to China with my parents and without my siblings was a huge intentional leap in this direction. Prioritizing time to go home for my dad’s surprise birthday, carving out time in the Bay Area at multiple points throughout the year to be with my brother, sister-in-law, nieces, cousin, aunt and uncle, all were thoughtful choices. Shifting my attittude about past frustrations in partnership with my twin proved immensely helpful. Also did a 3-day wellness retreat with my mom which included archery, juicing lessons, paddle boarding, art, yoga, and more one-on-one time than we’ve perhaps ever spent together in my adult life. I also continued to invest in my non-biological family relationships, as well, recognizing that we are also gifted with the family we choose, in addition to the family into which we are born.

Friendships have always been a priority for me, so I continued to pour into those, even though that looked different in some cases because of my hectic travel schedule. I had to come to terms with the fact that not everyone would be accepting of this, but that if I came from an authentic space and did my best, that that would be okay (#boundaries).

I continued to seek out and surround myself with people who bring joy, love, and positivity. Those who are running towards things that make them happy and about which they are passionate, as well as those who want to leave a bigger legacy on this planet than just to take from it.

I made a point to reach out and let people know I care and was thinking of them.

I never took my furry best friend, Chairman Meow, for granted, especially since I only see her about half of every month when I’m home.

I made some incredible new friends, I believe because you get what you put out, and this is something I highly value, seek, and into which I invest. I was also reminded with a couple friendships that not all things last, and that when people show you who they are, believe them.

My businesses made a shift this year, as I made the decision to reallocate much of the time I’d historically spent on my merchant services company, Equitable Payments, into Network Under 40 because it felt like the right challenge for me at this juncture. Growing our team to 10 people and into 6 cities has been a monumental learning curve for me, but I love to grow, so I take it in stride (mostly).

We opened our Nashville market, celebrated 1 year with our Baltimore and DC markets, Atlanta celebrated 5 years, and Network Over 40 celebrated 2 years. We even signed on event directors in Birmingham and Charlotte to launch in early 2017. I redesigned the infrastructure of the company, hired a director of operations, a new marketing firm, and took a lot more risks than I’d ever before in my businesses as I learned to operate a multi-market business-to-consumer company.

I signed up and started a 9-month marketing course because I’ve never taken a single business class and wanted to expand myself.  This self-expansion also included learning what it takes to make really hard decisions like letting team members go. Through all of this, I felt enormously grateful to be tapping into my gift as a connector through this company.

This also spun out into my getting hired to do networking and relationship building trainings for other organizations, which included an international lingerie company and one for an international Christian organization’s Southern leaders.

I continued to get quoted in and write for a number of national publications like Inc., Forbes, Entrepreneur, Huffington Post, CNN, Time, Business Collective, Fox Business, and Yahoo! I was on a handful of podcasts, spoke on a number of panels, and was the featured speaker for groups like Levo league on entrepreneurship and authentic relationship building. I was beyond flattered to be featured in several magazines like Darling along side Rosario Dawson (and others) as ‘A Female Entrepreneur Who Inspires Us to Keep Going’, got interviewed for Breakout on what being a connector is all about, was featured in Forbes, and was called a ‘Warrior Woman’ in a feature by CocoEco Magazine.

I spent some time working on the development of a technology to scale connections (think LinkedIn and having a baby), and decided to table it.

I sold a marginal number of my kids books, Finance Whiz Kids.

I recorded my first video series on “a guide to better networking” with 27 installments which will go live shortly.

While on the cruise that kick-started year 32, I learned my new favorite hobby: acroyoga. Along the way, I found a wonderful community of friends, teachers, and partners, as well as challenged my marginal fear of heights and rational fear of being upside-down in the air on top of another shaky human.

My meditation practice fluctuated from 2x/day to about 1x/day with a period of about 2-3 weeks where I intentionally shut it off to re-center without it. My gratitude practice (trying to focus on that for which I’m grateful, rather than that which I lament) continued. I prioritized rest and sleep, as well as ate well and relatively cleanly. I continued to prioritize fun and was less attached to outcomes.

I took on a continued attitude of self care as I invested in things that make me feel good about myself like regular hair treatments, eyelash extensions, the occasional massage, manicures and pedicures, guilt-free shopping, and having a beautiful home, car, and surroundings.

My love of black and white photography continued as I brought my camera around the world with me, marginally learned how to use LightRoom for editing, and finally committed to printing, framing, and making a photo wall of my work at home.

I continued my hobby of writing, not only for public consumption, but also for personal processing. I published 25+ articles for major national outlets including these on ‘6 steps to more effective goal planning’ and ‘The Unconscious Power of Brands’.

Cooking has always been an elusive and intimidating fascination, so I continued to learn new dishes, and accepted the thoughtful gift from my parents of having a chef come to my home to teach some friends and me some new dishes.

In line with boundaries, I let go of some hobbies that no longer served me and invited in new ones.  I ‘graduated’ from Global Shapers, joined the Emory Alumni Board (and said goodbye to my previous board position), ‘graduated’ from LEAD Atlanta, volunteered as social chair for the new class, got into standup paddle boarding, and picked up watercolor painting and adult coloring books.

While in LEAD Atlanta, I experienced some eye-opening immersion activities like working with the homeless, doing a ride-along with our EMS department, sitting in on Atlanta’s 911 call center, touring our federal prison, and along with a team, created a turnkey solution for the KIPP Atlanta High School for a student and parent life skills program.

I continued to invest time in relationships with my three mentors (each of whom personally and professionally kicked me in the ass…in the best of ways).

I read 28 books.

I celebrated 9 years of home ownerships, 8 years of self-employment, my 10-year college reunion, 5+ years with Network Under 40, and 7+years with Equitable Payments.

I leaned in further to the power of delegation and outsourcing by hiring a housekeeper, bookkeeper, marketing agency, director of operations, handyman, and pet sitter.

Think I broke the bank doing all of this? Incorrect! I stuck to an aggressive savings and investment plan and even invested in my first outside company…subsequently owned by my twin brother. I also gave more to charity than ever before and paid off a six-figure loan from my mother.

I saw an “intuitive” (aka psychic) for the first time.

Got a casting offer from a new reality dating show by Mark Burnett.

Got cultured at all sorts of museums all around the world, and even threw in a show or two at the theatre (okay, one was a murder mystery theatre). Took in a few concerts, saw a drag show, took a swing dancing class, attended a charity gala or two, had a few bowling adventures, celebrated gay Pride, and planned a scavenger hunt in the middle of Atlanta for a group of friends.

Got involved with a new nonprofit:

Like most of America, got addicted to “Stranger Things”.

And lastly, in my typical fashion, I threw some great parties (A Patriot Party, Olympics opening ceremonies costume party, and topped it all off with my “20 Years Too Late Bat Mitzvah Candy Land Birthday” party).

If you made it to the end and actually read every word, shoot me an email, I owe you some sort of thank you. After all of that, I have little more to share short of my gratitude. This was an exceptional year and looking back at it is such a vivid reminder of that.

I can’t wait to see what’s in store for 33. If these first 2 weeks are any indication, it’s going to be a year beyond my imagination and I can’t wait to share it with you.

Cheers to you and your personal rotation around the sun!






Read More

Recent Posts